If you talk to the reporters who work for various big media companies, they insist that they have true editorial independence from the business side of their companies. They insist that the news coverage isn't designed to reflect the business interests of their owners. Of course, most people have always suspected this was bullshit -- and you could see evidence of this in things like the fact that the big TV networks refused to cover
the SOPA protests. But -- until now -- there's never necessarily been a smoking gun with evidence of how such business interests influences the editorial side.
Earlier this month, we noted that the Hollywood studios were all resisting
subpoenas from Google concerning their super cozy relationship with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, whose highly questionable "investigation" of Google appeared to actually be run by the MPAA and the studios themselves. The entire "investigation" seemed to clearly be an attempt to mislead the public into believing that it was somehow illegal for Google's search engine to find stuff that people didn't like online. A court has already ruled that Hood pretty clearly acted in bad faith
to deprive Google of its First Amendment rights. As the case has continued, Google has sought much more detail on just how much of the investigation was run by the MPAA and the studios -- and Hollywood has vigorously resisted, claiming that they really had nothing to do with all of this, which was a laughable assertion.
However, in a filing on Thursday, Google revealed one of the few emails that they have been able to get access to so far, and it's stunning
. It's an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood's top lawyers in the Mississippi AG's office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google. Beyond influencing other Attorneys General (using misleading fake "setups" of searches for "bad" material) and paying for fake anti-Google research, the lawyers from Hood's office flat out admit that they're expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories:
Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed.
In other words, Jim Hood and the MPAA were out and out planning a coordinated media attack on Google using the editorial properties that supposedly
claim to have editorial independence from the business side. Notice that with the WSJ piece, they flat out admit that the editorial will be based on the ideas that "we" have developed. If you work for the WSJ, your editorial independence just got shot down. Remember when CBS stepped in and interfered editorially
with CNET for giving an award to Dish at the same time that CBS was in a legal fight over that same device? That resulted in reporters quitting
This is worse.
This is an out and out case where the MPAA is admitting to a plan whereby it will use mainstream media properties to run bogus and misleading stories to "attack" Google, to further the MPAA's (believed, but misleadingly so) business interests. Is this really how the Today Show and the WSJ pick their editorial topics?
The "plan" goes even further after that, getting the MPAA to find (and almost certainly pay for) a lawyer to work with the "shareholder" previously identified to file legal filings against Google.
Following the media blitz, you want Bill Guidera and Rick Smotkin to work with the PR firm to identify a lawyer specializing in SEC matters to work with a stockholder. This lawyer should be able to the [sic] identify the appropriate regulatory filing to be made against Google.
As Google notes in its legal filing about this email
, the "plan" states that if this
effort fails, then
the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. As Google points out, this makes it pretty clear (1) that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and (2) that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media
campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works. It's pretty damning:
The document thus shows that the CID was not the foundation of a legitimate
investigation—rather, it was a “final step” that would be issued only “if necessary” to further
pressure Google to capitulate to the demands of AG Hood and his supporters.
The court has yet to rule on what else Hollywood needs to turn over, but just from what's coming out already, serious questions are being raised (1) about Jim Hood and his office and what they were up to as well as (2) the editorial independence of the media arms of the MPAA studios, including both NBCUniversal ("the Today Show") and NewsCorp. (the Wall Street Journal).